Whom does the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate serve?

Since the beginning of the Russian war in Ukraine, the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate has stood out with controversial public statements. In the article in Vartja, Priit Rohtmets, Associate Professor of Church History, analyses how the leaders of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate speak about the ongoing war and how the Estonian society has reacted to the ambiguity in the church’s rhetoric.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) Patriarch Kirill gave a sermon on 25th September, where he said that all Russian soldiers who die in the line of duty in Ukraine have all of their sins forgiven. 

Then, on 18th October 2022 Metropolitan Yevgeny (Eugene), the head of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (EOC-MP), gave an interview where he said that he had always considered the war evil and that’s the reason why the church was against the war. However, when asked again, whether he was against the war that Russia was waging in Ukraine, he wasn’t so sure anymore and distanced himself from holding Russia responsible for the war.

Both, Kirill’s sermon and the ambivalent position of the EOC-MP received a strong reaction from Estonian religious leaders and politicians.

Urmas Viilma, the Archbishop of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, also condemned the words of the Patriarch. The tension was growing and the society expected a clear and unequivocally condemning assessment, he added.

According to the Ministry of the Interior, Patriarch Kirill’s speech was an act of hostile influence activity, which was not allowed in Estonia. Therefore, on 27th September Lauri Läänemets, the Minister of Interior, said that he expected a clear message from Metropolitan Yevgeny that he disagreed with Patriarch Kirill.

As Metropolitan Yevgeny did not take a stand on Patriarch Kirill’s words, he was invited to the Ministry of Interior to explain his position in connection with the views of Patriarch Kirill. The state’s position to ask for answers was met with criticism by Christian conservative circles, who considered it an attack against the EOC-MP, which they interpreted as an attack against all Christians living in Estonia. Archbishop Urmas Viilma, who himself had earlier asked the EOC-MP to take a clear position about the war, now asked the public to calm down.

On 12th October Metropolitan Yevgeny officially stated that he did not share the views of Patriarch Kirill concerning his sermon about the forgiveness of sins to Russian soldiers and confirmed that there was no war propaganda made in the church. Ministry of Interior thus stated that there was no reason to consider the EOC-MP as a security threat.

However, this was not all Yevgeny said to explain his position. First, he overruled the claim that he had abandoned his Patriarch and that there was a schism between the two. He just expressed his disagreement with one statement made by Kirill about the forgiveness of sins to soldiers. So, although he disagreed with one statement, he continued to share all the other public statements made by Patriarch Kirill about the war.

While the Estonian churches have done a lot to help Ukrainian refugees and the statements made by the Patriarch of the ROC have also been criticized by the leaders of Estonian religious associations, Yevgeny’s views have received little attention. Although there are people within EOC-MP, who condemn both Kirill’s and Yevgeny’s statements about the war, there is also a large part of the Russian-speaking population who hears Yevgeny and finds out that all wars are bad, that peace must be prayed for, and that refugees must be helped, but that Russia is not the only one to blame for the war. Therefore, Russia can be understood and not condemned. This can be considered a potential threat to maintaining the unity of Estonian society. 

Read the full article from Priit Rohtmets in Vartja.

Doctoral defence: Üllas Linder "Adam Reinhold Schiewe. Biography of the Founder of the First Estonian Baptist Congregation"

10. juunil kell 16.15 kaitseb Üllas Linder religiooniuuringute erialal doktoritööd „Adam Reinhold Schiewe. Esimese Eesti baptistikoguduse rajaja elulugu“.
Kadri Voorand

Musician Kadri Voorand to be the new Professor of Liberal Arts at the University of Tartu

Kant 300 näituseinfo kujundus koos joonistusega Kantist

The exhibition "Kant 300 in Tartu: from manuscripts to heaven"